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Coonelly, Fans Upset With Blown Call Against Braves

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(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

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John Shumway joined KDKA-TV in October 1988 as a General Assignment...
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A 19-inning game came down to just one play in Atlanta.

The Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves were waging a hard-fought battle, but the players’ efforts were overshadowed by a blown call at home plate.

With the score tied 3-3, Julio Lugo walked with one out in the bottom of the 19th inning.  Jordan Schafer followed with a single that advanced Lugo to third base.

The stage was set for the play fans of both clubs won’t soon forget.

Scott Proctor stepped up to the plate and chopped a grounder to third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who came home with the throw.

The throw beat Lugo to the plate by several feet and Michael McKenry appeared to tag him prior to crossing the plate.

Yet, umpire Jerry Meals saw no tag applied and ruled Lugo safe, which ended a nearly seven-hour game.

The play drummed up memories of Atlanta’s Sid Bream sliding into home in the 1992 NLCS.

This latest play was fresh on the minds of many fans in downtown Pittsburgh Wednesday morning.

“Very disheartening after a long game like that. Brutal,” one man said. “We need replay in baseball now? I don’t know.”

“I thought that was terrible and I believe he was tired and wanted that game to end. That was rotten,” a woman said.

“It was a rip-off. The guy was clearly out,” another upset fan said.

However, fans aren’t the only ones upset with the call. Pirates President Frank Coonelly issued a statement Wednesday:

The Pittsburgh Pirates organization is extremely disappointed by the way its 19-inning game against the Atlanta Braves ended earlier this morning. The game of baseball and this game in particular, filled with superlative performances by players on both clubs, deserved much better. We have filed a formal complaint with the Commissioner.

While we cannot begin to understand how Umpire Jerry Meals did not see the tag made by Michael McKenry three feet in front of home plate, we do not question the integrity of Mr. Meals. Instead, we know that Mr. Meals’ intention was to get the call right. Jerry Meals has been umpiring Major League games for 14 years and has always done so with integrity and professionalism. He got this one wrong.

For Pirates fans, we may have lost a game in the standings as a result of a missed call but this game, and the gutsy performances by so many of our players, will make us stronger, more unified and more determined as we continue the battle for the National League Central Division.

The play was also a hot topic of discussion on talk radio around town on Wednesday.

Pirates analyst Bob Walk called in to the Vinnie and Cook show on 93-7 The Fan to give his thoughts about the play.

“It was a tremendous game, incredible to watch. For it to end like that just had everybody from the Braves people in the press box to us, everybody, their jaws were just hanging open,” Walk said.

Walk is convinced that McKenry made the tag and that Meals made a bad call.

“All morning I’ve been thinking about that play and I just don’t get it. For [Meals] to make that call, you have to see six inches of daylight, I mean, I’m sorry to make that call. If it’s going to be missed, it’s going to be missed the other way where there was a phantom tag and you call the guy out. I mean, that’s the kind of thing you halfway expect in that situation because you don’t want to end it by saying something happened that you didn’t see,” Walk said.

Listen to the full interview here:

“Obviously, because there was no daylight, if he missed him you couldn’t get three sheets of notebook paper in between his glove and his leg. If he missed him, there’s no way in the world he ever saw daylight. I don’t know what he did, if he guessed, I don’t know. Again, it was just a horrible ending to really, an epic game.”

The loss, combined with wins by St. Louis and Milwaukee, dropped the Pirates to third in the NL Central.

For now, the Pirates and their fans will have to look ahead to getting back in the win column tonight when they take on the Braves again at 7:10 p.m.

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